June 23, 2017

I spy Astoria @ The Astor Room

It’s Wednesday and that means “Pine Island oysters and Stella from 5pm – 7pm at The Astor Room, all for the low low low low price of$15! I could probably stop right here but then it wouldn’t be a blog post would it.

This could be one of those nights that you talk about at the end of summer. To quote my friend Mark “You’re gonna have to roll me outta there”. Mark is smart, full of “one liners” and hungry. The kind of good buddy you look for when planning a gluttonistic (?) night out. Heck, I might even be a generous type and pay. Nothing like looking good for cheap. And by the way, if you miss it tonight you can always try again next Wednesday or the one after that.

I spy Astoria food scene

Let’s talk about restaurants. First off let me say that, Yes, I am a chef and yes the food matters. BUT it is not all about the food. It is not the scene or the atmosphere or the “farm to table” thing that does it for me. You too(?) perhaps. It is the people who really make it.

Our local restaurants here in Astoria really stand out in this category. These are the places I have started writing about and will continue to share more stories in the coming months. Many of our best places are run by people who care more about more than the bottom line. These people are part of the community. They work in the “Arts” or do community work. Others simply put their life and love into every dish that comes out of the kitchen. That is why your food tastes so good. A few names come to mind here. Evan at the Queens Kickshaw, Chris at The Astor room and Piccola Venezia, Gary at Bistro 33 and William Hallet, Natasha at Bear, Darren at Il Bambino, Michelle at Sugar Freak. Good people, family people, community people. And oh yeah, their food kicks ass and can make your swoon.

I spy Astoria @ Sac’s Place

Dear Jonathan, We’ve been going to our farm in Pennsylvania twice a week to hand-pick fruit, vegetables & herbs. We’ve been featuring fresh produce (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, peaches, plums, parsley and basil) in many of our daily specials for the past few weeks and will continue to do so as long as the harvest lasts. It really is a great time of year to be creative and experiment with delicious, home-grown products and we would like to invite everyone to come and share the goodness with us.

We also are featuring live music twice a week. On Mondays, The Larry Luger Trio plays jazz and on Tuesdays, The New Standards Trio plays contemporary standards and old favorites. Both nights are a great deal of fun (and we encourage people to get up and sing).

How was Ramen fest? Lame.

Ok folks, I really wanted to love this event. Probably my own fault. I didn’t realize the Japan block party / Ramen fest was only a sub event of a six block long standard street fair. The Ramen booths looked great BUT, you had to buy a ticket then get on a line from hell for each booth, EACH BOOTH! There were few other booths selling Japanese food but we were there for killer Ramen.

Aurora shooting victim fundraiser @ The Laughing Devil Comedy Club

The good people at The Laughing Devil Comdey Club sent me a letter asking for help spreading the word.

On Monday, July 30th, the Laughing Devil is holding a fundraiser for Caleb Medley, one of the victims of the Batman shooting in Aurora. Caleb is an aspiring comic, and our GM, Scott Sharp, is a former Denver comic who knew Caleb personally. Caleb was shot protecting his 9-month pregnant wife (who has since given birth). The fundraiser is simple – anyone is welcome to come and have a drink with us. It’s $15, which gets each customer one drink. 100% of the cover will be donated

I Spy Astoria @ Ovelia

Looks like we have a new celeb in the ‘hood. Chef Pete over at Ovelia on 30th avenue / 34th street was recently interviewed by E! for a show and qualified to the last round for a new ABC show w Anthony Bourdaine (we hope he gets the gig). Pete was also featured in last week’s episode of Mike Colameco’s Real Food “Pig Island”

As for us locals, we get to enjoy Pete’s non acting skills every time we sit down at Ovelia.

New York street Ramen fest 2012

Are you ready for it??!?!?!?! Tweet

Green market Tuscan vegetable soup

In soup pot, pour in oil to cover bottom of pan. Saute onions to soften. Add garlic and cook till fragrant. Crush tomatoes by hand and add to pot along with juices. Add all remaining ingredients. Stir and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and let cook uncovered one to two hours. The longer the better. This dish is even better the next day. Adjust for seasonings.

Ladle soup into big bowls. Each bowl gets a drizzle of oil and dollop of basil oil (below).

Serve with grilled or toasted good bread slices, olive oil, sea salt and black pepper.

Green market butternut squash soup

The fall harvest is crazy with colors and flavors from dark leafy greens to heavy yellow and orange squash. The green market had it all. I scooped up some butternut squash, carrots, apples and onions. Another farmer inspired me to purchase dark green Tuscan kale, zucchini, basil, celery and garlic. Some canned goods and other items from kitchen pantry rounded out the ideas brewing for the day’s soups.

I spy Astoria & LIC

Wednesday night was the Edible Queens Uncorked event at The Foundry in LIC, NY. So much food, so much wine and so little time. Let’s focus on the highlights and big news from the evening.

The event was hosted by Leah McLaughlin, the wonderfully personable and charming owner of Edible Queens. Leah is a true believer in all things Queens and might be the borough’s biggest booster.

Now for the news.

I Spy Astoria Food News

There’s a lot going on in the ‘hood these days.

Walking up 30th avenue last week one couldn’t help but notice the smell of smoke in the air. Heavenly meat smoker smoke. Our noses led us to an open door at the still under construction Butcher bar. They were testing recipes and the owner invited us in. Mathew introduced us to the chef and a bunch of guys standing at the counter wolfing down, I mean delicately tasting, a variety of smoked bbq products. We sampled burnt ends that were very juicy and tender, brined turkey which had a gentle deliciousness and finally bbq brisket which made me smile even though the chef was unhappy with this particular test specimen. The house made bbq sauce was pretty darn good too. If you need to know more then I guess you might want to know that the place looks good too. Lots of wood and diamond plate, butcher stuff and a nice backyard. There are seats inside and out back. Honestly, if the meat proves to be as good as the test then who cares about the decor.

Birthday dinner for your teamster

What a woman, mother and wife really wants for her birthday, after a long day’s work, is to be treated like a teamster. It’s true. When my lovely wife arrives home she gets to put her feet up, hang out with our son and relax. When cooking for your teamster always remember the six main food groups. Meat, fat, starch, veg, sweet and booze. Don’t forget the birthday candles and don’t even think of asking her to clean up. It’s her big day after all. And yes, gifts are important too. I didn’t forget that either.

Most of the ingredients came from the cornucopia of food shopping that is 30th avenue in Astoria. The rest of the goodies came from the farmers market at Socrates sculpture park.

Chef demo at Socrates sculpture park farmers market


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Come on down to the Socrates Sculpture Park Greenmarket tomorrow, Saturday, from 11:30am to 1pm for a chef’s demo.  I will be preparing two delicious alternatives to your everyday salsa.  Each sauce will feature produce from the market.  Dan at Hudson Valley duck has promised some goodies for the tasting.  We love this guy. For […]

Meet the farmers and artisans at Socrates Sculpture Park farmer’s market


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          A proper farmers market has finally set up in Astoria.  Even better, it’s at Socrates Sculpture Park, a favorite waterfront destination.  This market is not just produce.  One can also find raw cow milk cheeses, fresh slaughtered duck, breads and more.  What a pleasure to take a walk to the […]

Got my Sugarfreak in Astoria


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I first stumbled on SugarFreak in Astoria about a year ago. They were only a quirky interior then, but recently they opened their New Orleans-influenced culinary doors to the world. Here’s my story of a recent visit.